Film Review: Lucha Mexico

Die-hard wrestling fans might enjoy 'Lucha Mexico.' Everyone else should steer clear.
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Colorful yet tedious, Lucha Mexico focuses on the larger-than-life characters (and the athletes who play them) in the world of Lucha Libre, where freestyle wrestling is even more a theatrical spectacle than with WWE. This drawn-out documentary does little to shed light on the decades-old staged sporting event or its devoted followers; you would already have to love the subject to even like the movie.

On its literal surface, the most significant difference between Lucha Libre and its American counterpart is the use of masks: The burly, muscular male wrestlers never reveal their faces in the Mexican version of this “sport.” In addition, there is more show business involved—both in and out of the ring—hard as that is to believe, given how much over-the-top stagecraft dominates Vince McMahon’s super-productions.

But co-directors Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz follow the performers (aka the Luchadores) around in cinéma-vérité mode without gaining much insight into the immense appeal of Lucha Libre—hardly questioning why people enjoy something so obviously phony. One wrestler, Faby, the most popular of all females in the profession, simply retorts, “Isn’t everything on TV fake?”

If Hammond and Markiewicz had wanted to delve further beneath the surface, they certainly had opportunities given their access, but it might have been difficult to broach such topics as the homoerotic nature of male wrestling, the excessively exploitative nature of female wrestling, or the celebration of primal, mindless violence. Finally, one might well wonder what is that different from what we witness here (featuring grotesqueries like the “1000% Guapo" Shocker) and what has been a favorite live and TV pastime since the days of Gorgeous George. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Earlier this year, Lucha Libre found its way into the storyline of the black-and-white Mexican drama Bleak Street. Somehow, more was said with less (context or explanation) in Arturo Ripstein’s surrealist feature. Lucha Mexico isn’t without interest itself, but the movie meanders for 105 minutes and never comes to any point or raison d’être.

Perhaps down the road another fictional, Fellini-esque film will be the best way to understand and appreciate Lucha Libre. In the meantime, Lucha Mexico doesn’t satisfy its own expectations or demands.

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